Hofstra humming heading into showdown

January, 15, 2011
Jimmer Fredette is carrying BYU to a high national ranking, a shot at a Mountain West championship and a chance to go deep into March.

Kemba Walker is doing the same for Connecticut, carrying the Huskies to a high national ranking, a shot at Big East contention and a chance to go deep into March.

Barring some sort of injury, Fredette and Walker are locks to be first-team All-Americans.

Duke's Nolan Smith deserves a spot on the first team at this point with Jared Sullinger of Ohio State and Marcus Morris of Kansas filling out the top five.

But if you're looking for a sixth man on this team, a player who is doing as much and bears a comparable amount of burden for his team's success as Fredette and Walker, your choice should be Hofstra's Charles Jenkins.

The Pride are a surprising 5-0 in the Colonial Athletic Association heading into Saturday's home showdown against Old Dominion. The Monarchs, coming off a road loss at Drexel, could fall three games behind the Pride with a loss on Long Island, N.Y. ODU was picked to win the league, while Hofstra was selected in the middle of the pack.

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Charles Jenkins
AP Photo/Ricardo ArduengoCharles Jenkins is fifth in the nation in scoring (23.5 points per game).

But the rise of the Pride is all attributable to their 6-foot-3 senior guard.

Jenkins, who is averaging 23.5 points, 4.6 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 2.0 steals while shooting 49.3 percent on 3-pointers and 58.3 percent overall, has led an underclassmen-dominated team to the top of the CAA.

"When you're the best player on the floor, you have to be aggressive, and in my case my team feeds off my energy,'' Jenkins said Friday. "If I'm not feeling it, we can lose. One thing is body language and that can transfer to my team. I've got to stay aggressive. I have to step up and make baskets.''

Coincidentally, Jenkins, Walker and Fredette are all New York natives.

All three have to deal with the opposing scouting report focusing exclusively on ensuring those three don't beat the opponent.

"They're all similar,'' first-year Hofstra coach Mo Cassara said. "But if you look at Charles' stat line, you'll see how efficient he is. He doesn't take bad shots. I can barely get him to take 12 to 13 attempts a game. He's incredibly efficient. He shares the ball. He sacrifices himself. He's an incredible talent.''

The Pride struggled out of the gate, losing three in a row at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Classic. In the loss to Western Kentucky, a game in which the Pride held a lead only to succumb to the Hilltoppers' pressure, Jenkins passed up a chance to win the game when he dished off to Mike Moore for a 3-pointer instead of taking it himself.

Jenkins knows now that he has to be more selfish. The Pride have won 10 of their last 12 games and four in a row.

"We're practicing better and coach has been pushing us hard, and it's paying off,'' Jenkins said. "We came back after a bad loss [87-62 at Iona] and didn't want that to happen again, and it's showing the last few games.''

Old Dominion has the size and strength to push the Pride around, but ODU will have trouble containing Jenkins. A win over the Monarchs would send a strong message to the rest of the league that the Pride aren't going anywhere. This is the only time Hofstra plays Old Dominion in the unbalanced CAA scheduling. Hofstra has already won at Drexel, and while it still has to go to VCU and George Mason, the Pride don't have to play at James Madison -- another possible title contender.

"Charles challenged our guys after we lost that Iona game, and I'm proud how we responded,'' said Cassara, who was an assistant at Boston College last season. "But I'm really proud of our 6-1 record on the road. That's a great Al Skinner trait to prepare and win on the road. We've got confidence to win on the road, and they believe in each other and Charles.''

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer


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